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Home  /  Podcast   /  Actionable Content & Moving the Needle with Dan Elzer – Episode #46

Cordell speaks with Dan Elzer, President of The Training Academy, about ways companies can improve employee skills, increase profitability and move the needle. Dan is a speaker, consultant and trainer with years of experience. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.





Announcer: Welcome to “Training Unleashed.” The show that will help you design and deliver training that’s off the chain, and will make a difference. Now, here’s your host, Cordell Riley.

Cordell: Hi, my pleasure to be with you today. Also my pleasure to welcome Dan Elzer. Dan, welcome.

Dan: Well than you, Cordell. I appreciate the opportunity to join you on this project of yours.

Cordell: Good deal. Very excited you took the time. Very, very excited.

Dan: Thank you.

Cordell: So tell the group a little bit more about what does The Training Academy do, what do you guys offer?

Dan: We are, first and foremost, we’re a technique mastery company. When we get involved either in leadership, management, sales management, or actual sales people and processes, we’re driven behind what we call technique mastery. And technique mastery is the ability to duplicate your profession on demand. What I’ve found in working with companies and helping them either train with them, or for them, or develop training, is a lot of training gets lost in the weeds, and we don’t get the outcomes that we were looking for. So we’re kind of known for cutting through the fluff, getting to where the rubber meets the road, and making sure anybody who we work with can actually perform and do the skills, the techniques, change the habits, to make sure that they can have technique mastery.

Cordell: Just talk for a second about the importance you think training plays inside an organization or company as they’re looking to get to that next level, meet their corporate objectives. How important do you think training is inside an organization?

Dan: I believe it’s probably the most important thing. You know, as a business owner of multiple businesses, people always ask what’s most important to me. And I always say the first thing is leadership and financial management so you stay in business. Second to that is, you’re only in business selling a product or service. So training to me becomes the next most important thing.

And if you’re not having an ongoing program of training within an organization, I truly believe that you’re slowly deteriorating. Because the market is dynamic, it’s always changing. And if there isn’t someone there leading, training and coaching the staff, the sales force, you truly are losing ground against your competition. So it’s one of the most valuable assets I think an organization can have. But sadly, as I’m sure you’re aware, Cordell, all too often it’s the first thing people cut when times get tough.

Cordell: Yeah. What do you think about that? Do you think training is starting to get more of a seat at the table now? As you look around the executive suite and the C suites, do you think training is starting to get more of its share of time at the table, to really look and talk about how the organization moves forward?

Dan: Yeah, we’re seeing it from our customers and the people that we work with. And I think because where the economy’s going, confidences have changed. I think quickly organizations are realizing that they’re not accomplishing some of the things they want to in the marketplace. So I believe that training has very much so become one of the seats at the table, if you would.

And, which I think why you’re doing this, which I think is excellent for these organizations, I think a lot of places are in need of revamping or relearning how training should be delivered. Many, many times I see in organizations, when we get into the actual challenges, I see organizations do a lot of training. But again, they’re not getting their outcomes. And so I think today, it definitely has a seat at the table. And it’s something that, if people aren’t doing it, I truly believe that they’re, again, falling behind. Because your competitions doing it. They’re training their people. They’re getting them motivated, proactive, causing things to happen. And if you’re not, then you’re falling behind.

Cordell: And one of the things, Dan, you’ve probably seen this too. “Training Magazine” came out recently with their top trends in training. One of the items that they talk about was aligning training with business goals and measuring the results. So I kind of look at your actionable content that moves the needle. What does that mean, Dan?

Dan: Well I think it begins in the development of training. When you develop a program, we always begin, and we coach others to begin, with the outcome, as you were just saying. What are we trying to accomplish? And then backing into that, how you can structure a training to cause that outcome to occur.

But when we talk about actionable content that moves the needle, one of the things we find for the trainers and directors and CEOs that might be watching this, one of the things we find in internal training is that there are some things that top-producing people, whether it’s in leadership, management or sales, some of the things they do are hard to emulate, or hard to teach. So they end up teaching more philosophy, or more best practice than actual things that are actionable. Things that can be learned, that can be practiced repetitively. That then can be measured with an outcome.

So when we talk about actionable content that you can go out and deliver, and actually cause the needle to move, we’re talking about really drilling down on what that outcome is, and then backing into the skills, techniques. And one of the things, Cordell, that again, people miss, are the habits of the organization. When you take people and put them into a training program, I always say it causes these people to be the smartest people in the room when you’re sitting in a training event. As soon as that person walks out of the training event, the thing that will take over is their habit. Not the training they just had.

So actionable content and moving the needle takes training beyond the training room, into the ability to have measurement, follow-up, follow-through, testing, to make sure that the outcome is achieved, that the goal is achieved, and that the habits are changed to be able to actually do it in a repetitive way, without thought. A habit is something that happens automatically. Can this person leave this training with this objective and outcome and be able to perform?

Which brings me back to technique mastery, can they perform on demand that skill, technique, or strategy.

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Cordell: I still see a lot of training for the sake of training. And I certainly understand there are compliance things we have to do, and check the box. But do you think that is the culture starting to move in the training world? That people are really becoming more results focused? Again, I know you guys are championing it and trying to move it. Do you see it happening?

Dan: No, I don’t. And I’m glad you asked that. And to be just straight, and that’s another thing we’re known for is we cut right through it. It is not happening. And I think it’s not happening for two reasons. And again, if I have a trainer sitting out there, or someone running the training department, I believe that you have to create an environment within your training department or with your trainers for them to be able to admit what they don’t know.

Because what I find is trainers will fall back on what they’re most comfortable with, what’s in their wheelhouse. Got a client right now that we’re consulting with where out of a multi-module program within this large company, it’s an international company, the people that developed it, three of the modules just don’t accomplish their goal. And what we found is, it wasn’t that they didn’t want to accomplish that goal, it was that the trainers did not, one, realize they were not getting there, two, understand the skills and strategies that were missing within those modules, and then three, were uncomfortable themselves to be able to be the expert in front of people delivering and training on those pieces that were necessary.

So instead they went with, I call it the “wow effect,” or the “best practice effect,” or “This is how we did it, and it succeeded before.” Problem with that is I might get people to sit and listen, or to participate and, again, in the training environment go, “Hey, this is great.” But then they walk away unable to duplicate that. So I think that they’re realizing it, but I think that until we really get honest with where we are with our internal teams and their abilities and training the trainer, if you would, we’re missing some stuff that’s causing us to not hit those goals and objectives.

Cordell: Okay. So Dan, I’ve heard you talk about this a couple times on this session. Talked about changing habits, or habits. Talked about when somebody walks away from a session, and I’m gonna call a training session an event. You know, they come to an event and they get esprit de corps and they get all excited about things. But then the habits don’t change. They walk away, and nothing happens differently.

Give me some… How do we keep it going? How do we work on those habits? How do we make sure that we really are moving it? How do we affect that? How do we do something different?

Cordell: Again, I think it starts in the structure. You know, structuring the class. I like to share with people, if you’re going to be in charge of a training department, when was the last time you immersed yourself in training? I think trainers attending training, not for the purpose of learning specifically what that person’s training, but to start to learn, “How are you receiving training? What’s working for you, what’s not?” To start to emulate, break down and understand the delivery process.

So first and foremost, again, that structure. And here at The Training Academy with our instructors, we go by what we call “The Three Es.” And The Three Es are you have to be able to educate people, entertain people and energize people. What I’ve found in, whether it’s leadership, management, sales management or sales, I’ve found that if you go educate people, they basically listen to some, fall asleep, don’t retain. It’s great material, but it’s not actionable then. Then we have people that entertain. If you entertain people, then they get excited, they say it was a great event, but they can’t perform. And then the energy side of it is to get people to, what I call having the courage to take action.

So when we model our programs around “The Three Es,” there has to be an educational portion in there, which has drilling, rehearsing, role-play, if you would. It has to have energy, where the person feels good, feels safe, can start to practice this. And it has to have some entertainment value where there’s a little bit of laugh, a little bit of a light-heartedness, if you would, to keep people going through the program.

So that to me, those “Three Es,” when we really define them and teach them to trainers, is so important for them to be good deliverers at the front of the room, to get that to happen. But then I truly believe it’s post-work, Cordell. And it’s that ability have post-work that measures, or retests, what that person was supposed to do or learn, to then have a safe haven for when that person does not achieve mastery, being able to duplicate on demand. That there is a channel now, within training, to go back and pick up on what was lost, or what was not mastered.

So it’s multi-faceted, where a lot of training is, “This is module 101, then 202, then 303, and now you’re ready to go.” I just don’t find that old-fashioned approach working in the dynamics that we have today, out there in the business world.

Cordell: What are some of the biggest challenges out there that you’re seeing from a training perspective today? Just some of the biggest challenges that you’re seeing out there?

Dan: I think that, as you said, we’re training for the sake of training. And I think that’s one of the largest challenges is we’re not training…another one of our sayings here at The Training Academy is, “Be on Purpose.” To train on purpose, to target train if you would, I think is where we’re not going. And again, I come back to, “Do we truly have an outcome? Do we truly have a structure that we put together where we’re clear on what we’re trying to do?” Having been involved in numerous consulting situations with other companies, helping them build training, I find that when you get all these people in here, trying to talk about what we want this training to be, we end up with a lot of information that doesn’t actually address the outcome.

So one of the challenges, again, I think it has to be an outcome-driven event. A second challenge that I see out there is starting to, again, rely on virtual training. I think one, it’s a good thing and it’s a bad thing. It’s a double-edged sword. Virtual training requires a whole different set of skills to deliver it, with a whole different set of interactions to make sure that people retain it. So just moving to a virtual platform of any kind, and not really breaking down that program again and making sure it’s gonna be received properly from a virtual format, I think can be incredibly dangerous.

And then I think a missed component is the opportunity to use video to actually be a reinforcement tool after class, as a post-assist to training and creating modules that are post-a-event, that are very specific to what we know challenges are that people don’t pick up on.

So those are some of the challenges I see out there. And, Cordell, one of the biggest ones is I don’t know how many people have really understood, or have immersed themselves in adult learning. And understanding how people learn. If we’re not careful there, too, we can do some really great stuff that, in the end, does not get received by an adult, because they learn differently than a child did.

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Cordell: Yeah, great point, great point. We talked about the use of video. Can you give me a couple of examples in those two scenarios of how are you using video, and what are some different delivery techniques, from to make sure that you’re engaging the audience in a virtual environment?

Dan: Number one in the virtual environment, when we structure things…most people will take an existing program and say, “We’re going to take this into a virtual platform so we can reach further, cheaper, better, more efficient.” I always say that “less is more,” when it comes to a virtual approach. Since we don’t keep the attention span of people as long in a virtual environment, since if we do too much preaching and not enough interacting, they’ll be off checking an email, taking a phone call, muting things.

So less is more, first. How can you take the content you were looking at and then take an honest approach to what is more important, and what don’t we have to talk about? Because I always say, at the end of the day for training a division, what you don’t teach, they don’t know they missed. But if we teach too much in a virtual environment, then they hear a lot of things, but master none of it.

So the first thing I would say is that. Then the things that you took out of the event. That you said, “I don’t need to really do this live in the virtual world.” Those become, in my book, what these secondary modules can be. Giving people the opportunity to watch a short video, short skill training or process training video, that then has behind it an exam, or some type of accountability, to make sure that they have learned. As long as that’s tied into the content that you keep, I think that that’s a huge improvement to the virtual training.

Next is people have to understand that, as you and I are right now in a video environment, your energy has to be different. You have to inflect different. You have to use your voice differently. If you want to keep the people engaged with you, you have to raise your energy level when you’re in a video, or on a virtual platform, compared to being in-person. So I think there is some physical things you have to do to be a better presenter, and there’s structural things you have to do, so you’re not just feature-dumping on people, you’re actually getting, again, that needle to move.

Cordell: Yeah, we’ve got a group of training professionals out here that have dedicated some time to kind of sit down and come listen to this session, so that they can make themselves better. So if you had to give them a couple of things to really focus on, if they wanted to take their training to the next level inside of their organization, what tips can you leave our audience with today that can really resonate with them to work on, as they go back to their organization?

Dan: First I think that we have to, as a trainer, improve and invest in ourselves. We have to make sure that our delivery method is effective. That we understand, again, adult learning and how people learn. That we ourselves experience training. I find a lot of trainers get to the point where they stop experiencing training. And therefore they’ve got their way that they do things. And to not go out there and see others and experience things and challenge yourself to, “God, I really enjoyed that interaction. How can I emulate that? How can I bring it into the way I perform?” So I think the first thing is that internal look at yourself, to better yourself as a trainer.

Secondly, I think that you slow things down. If you really want to get good at this, it’s about slowing down the process from what you’re trying to create, to creating it, to practicing it, and then having its delivery. The more that we practice what we’re doing as trainers, the more we’ll find… It’s kind of like doing a pro-forma on an idea. If you’re good at doing a financial pro-forma on an idea, some great idea is that you then break down in a narrative and numbers format, you get through with it and you go, “This isn’t a good idea.” Because at the end of the day, it’s not working.

I find the same thing will happen with training. That if you invest in yourself and you know that you can deliver, and then you create this and you practice it and you take it through to the end, you might get to the end and just go, “This just doesn’t feel like I’m hitting what I need.” So be bold enough to go back and make change.

And then in the end, when you start delivering a program, don’t be afraid to change. Don’t put it in the can and say, “This is it.” It has to be able to be a “live document,” if you would. I truly believe that training, when you first create them, you have to be able to take feedback, results, are we accomplishing the objective, are we moving the needle? And when not, take that feedback and make adjustments to it before we go and send it out to all the trainers and say, “Now go run with this program.” Really bullet-proof the thing so you know it has legs, it will work for a long time, and it will accomplish its objective.

Cordell: Dan, some great comments. I’ve certainly enjoyed this, and I myself have learned some things from this. So thank you for the time and thank you for the effort. It’s been a great session.

Our audience, thanks for joining us. Please come back for others. Thank you, take care, have a great day.

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We’ll talk to you next time on “Training Unleashed.”

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